Thoughts & Essays

Re: Saving Reality

Republicans have been using the same playbook my entire life, and probably for a bit before that, at least. One of their favorite plays is to invent a boogeyman or moral panic, get their base whipped up about it, and use it to scare and/or infuriate their base into action.

“Action” used to mean showing up to the polls. Then for awhile it meant protesting vociferously. Then it meant protesting nearly violently. Now it means riots, violence, and insurrection.

If you’re looking for examples, think “They’re coming to take our guns away!” Think “They took our jobs!” Think “radical Islamic terrorists.” Think “Reefer madness.”

If you’re looking for a recent example, think “Critical race theory.”

So, what is critical race theory? It’s a thing you might study in law schools. From Wikipedia,

Critical race theory (CRT) is a framework of analysis grounded in critical theory and an academic movement of civil-rights scholars and activists who seek to examine the intersection of race and law in the United States and to challenge mainstream American liberal approaches to racial justice. CRT examines social, cultural, and legal issues primarily as they relate to race and racism in the United States. A tenet of CRT is that racism and disparate racial outcomes are the result of complex, changing, and often subtle social and institutional dynamics, rather than explicit and intentional prejudices of individuals.

Are kids learning “critical race theory” in elementary school? Nope. Anyone who tells you different is either lying to you or is badly misinformed by rightwing propagandists. Straight up.

The rightwing needs their white base to be frightened and angry, to keep them motivated. They use “critical race theory” to frighten white parents into believing their white kids are being taught to hate themselves and think that people of color are better than them.

This is, in no way, a thing that is actually happening in reality.

Kids might be learning about the history of racism in the United States. Kids might be learning about the Holocaust. In some more progressive schools, they might be learning about alternative genders and sexualities during sex ed. They might even be getting a version of the types of REDI (Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) training I’ve gotten through work.

For reference, most of my training in this arena boils down to “Hey, y’all know about how other races, genders, and sexual preferences exist, right? Folks from those categories have a harder time in life than you do. Try not to be gigantic dicks about it, okay? Great, have a donut.” I mean, this is not hardcore brainwashing, is what I’m getting at here.

Hate, fear, and rage motivate people. They energize people. The GOP has weaponized that and uses it to drive their base. So their base shows up at school board meetings to rant and rave about mask mandates and critical race theory and whatever else Fox News and One America News Network has told them to be mad about. And because they’re the ones who make all the noise, they seem like they must be a majority, and they get listened to.

Here’s the important thing: They are not the majority. The majority of people know that no one’s teaching their kids this boogeyman version of critical race theory in kindergarten. The majority of people are fine with mask mandates and vaccine mandates. But the thing is that sensible, common-sense ideas don’t really energize people, so nobody shows up screaming over them. Mostly folks go, “Oh, yeah, that’s a good idea, I’m cool with that,” and go back to watching Jeopardy and making dinner or whatever.

So you have to show up. For every one frothing loon there has to be ten chill people showing up at school board podiums to say, “No, I’m cool with mask and vaccine mandates and realize that critical race theory isn’t a thing you’re teaching to my 8 year old, please continue doing what you’re doing, thanks.”

And it’s that simple. It’s 10 minutes. That’s all it has to be. “Hi there, I’m Bob. I support mask mandates and vaccine mandates. I support the curriculum you’re teaching my kids. Thanks for your time.” Get your friends to join you. Drown the rage-based crazy talk out with your chill.

Look man. Consensus-based reality is breaking down. Thirty to forty percent of Americans are so badly misinformed that they do not believe in observational, science-based reality.

This percentage of the American population thinks Joe Biden – Joe Biden, of all people, the most milquetoast old white dude we could find – is, simultaneously, some wild-eyed nefarious radical who cheated his way to a win in a national election and a dementia-addled stumblefuck who can’t find his own ass with both hands and a map. They think masks give you COVID-19 or something. They think you can cure COVID-19 with dewormers. They think you can “de-vaccinate” yourself with an Epsom salts bath, for fucksake.

We have. got. to start showing up. Rational people must start showing up, at elections, at town halls, at school board meetings. We must call our elected representatives, and write them, and email them, and text them, and whatever else. If we are the majority, then we have to start making ourselves heard.

If we don’t, we’re going to end up with good people leaving our school boards to the people who think “critical race theory” is a common grade school curriculum. We’re going to end up with harmful anti-critical race theory laws and book burnings. We’re going to end up with a Republican-controlled House and Senate and Benghazi-style impeachment hearings on Biden for the next three years. We’ll have no chance at substantive climate change action, no chance at social welfare reforms, immigration reform, gun control, health care reforms, or any other progressive legislation. We’ll have judicial benches packed full of conservative karens and old men who don’t know how screenshots work.

Guys, I know the Democratic Party isn’t exactly impressing anyone right now. Lord knows I ain’t impressed. But the alternative is literal insanity and the first step to fixing all this is keeping the Democrats in power. So we have got to show up.